WIPs 'N Chains

Kim Guzman, Crochet and Knit Design

Knitting vs. Tunisian Crochet

18 Comments

While on Ravelry, I noticed a question being posed about the differences between knitting and Tunisian crochet. I jumped at the opportunity. And, I’m afraid my passion for Tunisian crochet really flowed through my fingers as I was typing my response. So, I thought I would share it with you lovely people as well.

I recently finished a book addressing this very question in the preface. (Be sure to watch for my upcoming books with Leisure Arts!) So, it’s all very fresh in my mind and I’m excited to learn that you are trying Tunisian crochet. It is actually very easy to learn and far easier for beginners, even children, to learn than regular crochet. When my mother was visiting me several years’ ago, I taught her the simple stitch and she made a scarf right then and there, with no knitting or crocheting experience.

Most of the Tunisian stitches are simply a single crochet. When you single crochet, you 1) insert your hook and pull up a loop, 2) yarn over and pull through 2 loops. With Tunisian crochet, you do step 1 all the way across, ch 1, and do step 2 all the way across. It is this repetitious nature that makes it so easy to learn. And anyone who knows how to do a single crochet can already do Tunisian crochet; they just don’t know it yet.

Many people feel like it’s slow going. And, in truth, any afghan made up of all single crochet is slow going. But, the stitches are actually larger than normal, so that would make it quicker.

The way to make the different stitches is by inserting your hook in different locations of the stitch below. But, it doesn’t stop there, with only the single crochet. In Tunisian crochet, you have the full palette of stitches available that you have in regular crochet.

I am forever seeing posts on Ravelry where a knitter wants to make something that looks like crochet and a crocheter wants to make something that looks like knit. I feel that Tunisian crochet is the best of both worlds in one. I can make something that looks exactly like knit, or I can make something that looks exactly like crochet. I can even make something that looks woven.

With either knitting or Tunisian, you can make a dense fabric. You can even make an item dense enough that it will stand up on its own with either technique. But, like knitting, you don’t have to do that. Tunisian crochet never has to make a dense fabric, unless you want it. I’ve done some lace pieces and have a beginner lace book available. But, I’ve also done some pretty incredible, more advanced lace pieces which I can’t show you yet, unfortunately. I am impatiently waiting for a book to be published. :-)

Like knitting, Tunisian crochet (the basic stitches) are made up of interlocking loops that run vertically along the fabric. The only difference is that each row of Tunisian crochet also has a chain running through its center. This doesn’t have to be a bad thing. You could look at it as “Well, hello there, Mr. Automatic Self-Made Lifeline!”

With Tunisian crochet, you don’t have to worry so much about dropped stitches. They’re never going to go past that lovely enclosed lifeline and because of the lifeline, you can just rip out one row and carry on as though nothing happened.

And, no need to put in a lifeline in order to take your knitting off the needles to measure it. You can do it anytime.

With Tunisian crochet, you can make very similar items to knitting AND crochet, so incorporating the two looks in one project is extremely easy.

Because the usual goal isn’t to make a bullet-proof fabric, with Tunisian crochet, you will usually use a hook 2 or 3 times larger than the crochet hook suggested on the ball band (if there is a crochet hook suggested on the ball band). This means that your loops would be much bigger than they would in knit, but we’ve got that chain life line so they’re supposed to be bigger. And, I’ve found that, when producing the same density as a knit sample, the Tunisian crochet sample will use the same amount or less than the knitted sample. But, it’s all about density. If you use the same size hook as you would knitting, it would use a far greater amount.

Because the stitches are bigger, I find that I can do a stockinette look scarf in 1/3 the time as I would if I had knitted it.

When making a stockinette fabric in Tunisian crochet, the back is different. There are pronounced ridges, bigger than your purl side of stockinette. That’s because the inner chain of the Tunisian stitches is pushed to the back. Again, not a bad thing and it’s the best thing in the world for felting. When felted, you can produce a wonderful, sturdy fabric. It’s the best medium I’ve found for felting.

Ribbing. The knitters win on ribbing. (Please see update below.) Knitted ribbing is far superior to any other form of ribbing. The reason we can’t get ribbing in Tunisian is because of that chain through the middle. It doesn’t allow for the natural stretchiness that is seen in knits. I can get a stitch pattern that looks like ribbing, but it doesn’t act so much like ribbing.  I’ve, so far, been able to come up with one stitch pattern in Tunisian crochet that actually stretches and bounces back like ribbing. I have only been able to produce it with a double-ended Tunisian hook. There may be other ways to make ribbing in Tunisian crochet that I haven’t discovered yet.

With Tunisian, you get the same curling as you do with knitting. But, like knitting, you just put a Tunisian seed stitch or garter stitch at the bottom and you’re golden.

Because I knit as well, I’ve got a stockpile of techniques that I can easily use in Tunisian. You can mimic almost every look in knitting. But, you can also do right- and left-leaning decreases. You can use a provisional cast on just like in knitting so that you can work the fabric in both directions. You can do eyelets. You can work knit/purl graph picture afghans. You can work in the round, like tubular projects, such as hats and such.

I don’t feel like Tunisian crochet should replace knitting. I love to knit. I especially love to design in knit and write patterns for knit. But, I can’t help but get excited about a technique which is so versatile and has so much room for growth.

Please check out my videos to see how easy Tunisian crochet is to learn. I’m sure you will be very pleasantly surprised. http://www.youtube.com/crochetkim

UPDATE: Since writing this post, I have experimented with Tunisian crochet ribbing and find these two alternatives to be satisfactory (although I still prefer hand knitted ribbing).

True, stretchy ribbing has to be done vertically (at least, that is my current experience). For instance, you will do the ribbing first. Then, do the rest of the project horizontally along the sides of the rows. This would be like doing a back loop only single crochet ribbing, then turning it sideways to do the rest.

You can do the ribbing two different ways.

1) With a one-ended Tunisian hook, work a row of Tunisian knit stitch, then a row of Reverse Tunisian Knit Stitch. (Reverse Tunisian Knit Stitch is inserting the hook from the back of the work to the front of the work through the vertical bars rather than front to back like the regular knit stitch.)

2) With a double-ended Tunisian hook, work in double-ended Tunisian (cro-hook) with two separate balls of yarn and work in all Tunisian Knit Stitch.

I prefer method #2. I will try to get videos for these in my next video shooting.

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Author: crochetkim

Artist: Crochet and Knit Pattern Designer

18 thoughts on “Knitting vs. Tunisian Crochet

  1. I love Tunisian crochet. I love how it looks, the east of doing it and the portability. Plus it is so easy to pick up where you left off-no guessing. I do sculptural pieces so Tunisian is IT for me. Great post, thank you.

  2. I’m currently testing a shawl in Tunisian and I love it. I’ve yet to try lace, I’m just looking for the right project. My current project does have lace, but it isn’t overall lace.

  3. That was a really interesting read – thanks!

    I agree that Tunisian is one of the easiest techniques to introduce to beginners. I teach crochet and I have have a few samples of single and double crochet, hairpin, Tunisian and knitting around for people to ‘have a go’ at. It’s also something interesting for people who are a bit more advanced, and I certainly need to pay it more attention.

    Time to play with my wire again… :D

  4. Hi Kim,

    Thanks for the great comments. I finally made time to sit down and pulled out the single end J tunisian hook I bought months ago. I have been crocheting for years and slowing teaching myself to knit but just not ready to go full fledge yet. I LOVE tunisian, once I looked at a few of the videos (thanks again) I was able to get the hang and the flow easily. I have a scarflette that I was working on in a variegated yarn that I am enjoying.

    I’m sold. I may one day get back to learning knitting but right now I’m enjoying learning the Tunisian crochet. I will definitely check out your books.

    Thanks for sharing!

  5. I am so in love with Tunisian crochet. Finally I can produce a knit-life fabric with my well-honed crochet skills. I am currently reproducing a crochet baby sweater in Tunisian Purl stitch. I got stuck on the pattern when it said to increase 8 stitches by chaining…..I figured out how to make it work with the Tunisian method though I know it is a bit un”orthodox.” However, it worked and the result is quite satisfactory.

    Do you have any suggestions for increasing in Tunisian crochet where an increase of more than one stitch is called for?

    • If you are wanting to increase stitches at the beginning of a row, you will simply add chains. That’s the easy one. :-)

      At the end of the row, it is very typical to take a bit of the yarn, make a separate chain and then attach it with a slip stitch at the end of the row. I prefer to do a crochet cast on as for knitting. If you’re interested in trying that, there are several YouTube videos showing different knitting cast-ons.

  6. I just read this today and one thing especially caught my eye…you said you can make right and left leaning decreases. I’ve been playing around with this exact issue. I love the design interest they create when combined. Thanks for sharing your (our) love of Tunisian crochet. I feel there is a world of possibility with this craft…and I almost wonder if it won’t be considered in its own category someday. It’s crochet, yes, but it’s also sort of knitting, sort of weaving, and just plain awesome. :)

  7. For ribbing, I like to combine sl st blo with tunisian crochet. It’s easy enough to swtich back and forth, and the sl st ribbing is almost identical to 1×1 knit ribbing. The only thing is that, like most crochet, you have to work the ribbing sideways then pick up stitches evenly across the top.
    Check it out, sl st ribbing combined with tunisian:
    http://images4.ravelrycache.com/uploads/crazytuffie/98588996/heartsweater2_medium2.jpg

    • Yep, that’s exactly what I do as well. One of these days, I’m going to have more time to really get in there and test some different ways to do true Tunisian ribbing that actually stretches. One day. :-)

  8. I have a question about reading graphs.
    I’m doing a complicated design.
    I know that when doing the return pass you pick up the color of the second loop. On the chart even though the two vertcals are white, the box is green.
    can you explain?

    • I’m really not certain what you’re asking. When a box is “green”, then you pick up the verticals in green and you change to green to close them.

  9. Is there a way to convert a knit pattern into Tunisian crochet?

    • There are some things that convert very well from knit to Tunisian and some things, not so well. For instance, garter stitch, seed stitch and stockinette convert well. A lot of knit lace does not. You will also need to adjust things like your hook size or the yarn you use. But, it *can* be done with a lot of patterns.

  10. So if I have wool that’s says to use 4mm knitting needles but no mention of crotchet, I should use about a 6mm Tunisian hook?

    • Usually, the regular crochet gauge will suggest a higher mm than the knitting gauge. So, for this yarn, the regular crochet hook could be something like 5mm or 6mm. That would mean that the suggested Tunisian crochet gauge would be something like 6.5mm through 9mm. But, in the end, it all matters on your personal preference and your own personal tension. If you aren’t following a pattern where gauge is given, you will stitch up a fabric and see if you like it. There is no scientific explanation. I could stitch up a lovely piece of fabric using a 6.5mm and you could stitch up the same fabric, but because your tension is very tight, you may need a 9mm to get the same result. It’s not a fault of incorrect stitching. It is simply that everyone stitches with their own tension. Some people stitch tightly. Some stitch loosely. The suggested hook size is always just a suggestion and starting point so that you have an idea of where to start when attempting to get the same gauge.

  11. No problem, i just find that in australia the wool comes out with knitting needle size only and no mention of crotchet.

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